The Southwest Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program offers some outstanding redemptions for travel around the U.S. and international locations.
While these redemptions are a good value on their own, you get the greatest value when redeemed with the Southwest Companion Pass. If you haven’t heard of the Companion Pass, you’re in for a surprise!
In addition to the low number of reward points needed to book Southwest flights in general, Southwest gives you an extra free ticket for no extra points when you have a Companion Pass!
Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Basics
Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be earned by signing up for the Southwest credit cards. You earn points toward the Companion Pass with every purchase made with a Southwest card so make sure you’re ready to put a lot of spending on your card!
Each of these cards has an annual fee and typically come with a sign-up bonus, so check out their reviews for the current offers.
You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account at a 1:1 rate.
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.|
The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. |
Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
|Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A solid, no-annual-fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. The newest intro offer earns an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back! This means you'll enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).|
After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Recommended Chase Cards (Business)
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.|
Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening|
This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.|
Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.
The travel rewards cards have an annual fee, but the cash-back cards (which can convert into Chase reward program points) do not. All cards typically have a good sign-up bonus.
Search on Southwest.com for the lowest fares using their designated lowest fares search engine. Select the option to show the price in “points” when you search for availability.
The number of Rapid Rewards points needed for a ticket on Southwest Airlines is based on the “destination, time, travel date, demand, fare class, and other factors.”
Typically, you get:
- Business Select fare: ~78 points/$1
- Anytime fare: ~78 points/$1
- Wanna Get Away fare: ~76-78 points/$1
There’s an estimated fares destination map located here to see specific rates, but fares are still subject to change depending on the parameters mentioned above.
How the Southwest Companion Pass Works
Southwest may not be the largest carrier, but it is probably the most popular carrier due to its commitment to customer service and status as a great low-cost carrier.
By far the best way to redeem points is to have and use the Southwest Companion Pass. You’ll get 2 tickets for the price of 1, regardless of whether you pay for the flight or use Rapid Rewards points!
How To Earn the Companion Pass
You must earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year to receive the Companion Pass.
These must be eligible points, such as points earned from flying (100 one-way flights in a year), Rapid Rewards credit cards (including sign-up bonuses), the Southwest Dining Program, shopping portal, or partners.
Note that points transferred from other programs or accounts (e.g., Chase Ultimate Rewards) will not count toward earning a Companion Pass.
As of April 1, 2017, purchased points, flight bonus points, tier bonus points, points earned from surveys, and partner bonus points will not count toward the Companion Pass.
Once you have earned the Companion Pass, it will be valid until December 31 of the year after the year in which you earn it. So, you’ll get the most use out of the Companion Pass when you earn it in January because you can fly with it for nearly 2 years after that (e.g., January 2017 through December 2018).
The Companion Pass can be used every time you fly Southwest.
How To Check Your Companion Pass Progress
Checking your progress towards the Companion Pass is easy and can be done right on the Southwest Airlines website.
After logging on to your Southwest.com account, click on My Account in the upper right hand corner. Then you will see a progress chart in the My Rapid Rewards section in the middle of the page.
Your progress will be tracked in points and in number of flights. But you only need to achieve one of these requirements, not both, to earn the Companion Pass!
Hot Tip: Curious what the best credit card is? Check out this list of the best credit cards for Southwest Airlines flyers.
How To Maximize the Companion Pass
The companion pass is eligible for use with paid and award travel on both domestic and international Southwest Airlines itineraries. Before you can bring a friend or loved one, you must designate them as your companion.
Your companion can travel with you for only part of your itinerary if they choose, but they cannot travel without you on the Companion Pass. Additionally, you can change your designated companion up to 3 times per year.
If you lose the physical pass Southwest sends you by mail, don’t worry; you don’t actually need it to book a flight.
Following the above strategies, you can feel confident that you have maximized the value of your Southwest Companion Pass. Now, all you have to do is look for great deals on domestic and international flights to take with a friend, relative, or partner!
Before you know it, you’ll be getting tons of value out of your Companion Pass and Rapid Rewards points.
Hot Tip: For more information check out our ultimate guide to the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.
Best Ways To Use the Southwest Companion Pass for Vacations
Using points and miles is where the fun really begins! After all your hard work earning them, it’s nice to get some ideas about where to go so you can start anticipating those trips!
1. Fly Dallas to Portland Round-trip
With the Companion Pass, you can fly yourself and a travel companion on a round-trip ticket from Dallas to Portland in economy class for 15,330 Rapid Rewards points.
Those reward points cover the cost of your ticket, and your travel companion flies for nothing extra except the occasional airport taxes and fees.
Full price without the Companion Pass, this same flight for 2 people would cost about $548 total. That’s a value of 3.6 cents per point, which is an excellent redemption!
2. Fly Baltimore to the Bahamas Round-trip
If you’re looking for a great international vacation, check out the “Wanna Get Away” fares from Baltimore to Nassau, Bahamas. You can book a round-trip ticket in economy class for 10,080 Rapid Rewards points.
Fees tend to be a bit higher on international flights, whereas they are quite low for domestic flights. But the redemption value is still good: this flight for 2 would give you a value of about 2 cents per point.
Hot Tip: If you time your spending right, you could earn the sign-up bonus points for 2 of Chase’s Southwest credit cards early in the calendar year. Then you’ll only have to earn the difference before the Companion Pass is yours!
3. Fly Denver to Los Cabos Round-trip
Southwest has been expanding its international footprint, and that’s good news for Companion Pass holders.
You can fly from Denver to Los Cabo, Mexico for 22,752 Rapid Rewards points round-trip. Purchasing 2 tickets on this route would typically cost you over $900, which means you’re getting over 4 cents per point thanks to the Companion Pass!
Hot Tip: Need some travel inspiration? Check out these lesser known international destinations that Southwest flies to.
4. Fly Atlanta to Punta Cana Round-trip
Another fun international route on Southwest is between Atlanta and Punta Cana. You can fly round-trip for 25,056 Rapid Rewards points with the Companion Pass.
Not a bad deal when you consider the fact that it would cost over $850 for 2 tickets!
Hot Tip: Looking to upgrade your trip? Use The Platinum Card® from American Express to gain access to Priority Pass lounges.
5. Southwest Ticket Sales
Every so often, Southwest runs a “Low Fare” sale on certain routes. These sales include both domestic and international routes.
Recently, Southwest ran a sale that included one-way flights from Orlando to Aruba for only 8,784 Rapids Rewards points. For flights that would normally cost $384 for 2 people, this was a great deal with the Companion Pass.
You also could have booked a one-way flight from Atlanta to Cancun for 7,992 Rapid Rewards points. With the companion pass, you would get an amazing value of just over 4 cents per point!
There are also some great deals on domestic flights. We just saw one-way flights from Chicago to New Orleans for 9,757 Rapids Rewards points. That’s a redemption value of over 3 cents per point when using the Companion Pass.
These sale prices for award flights beat out most other competitors. Pair any sale ticket with the Companion Pass to maximize the value of your award!
Keep in mind that these points prices may change depending on your dates of travel.
Be sure to check both the Rapid Rewards points cost and cash cost of flights when searching for tickets. This enables you to determine if it’s worth it to use the points, or if you should simply pay for the flight in cash.
Check out all routes on Southwest’s interactive route map.
Hot Tip: Get Ding! Ding is Southwest’s own alert system that will notify you when flights to your chosen destination from your selected airports go on sale. You can get it for your desktop or in the iTunes store for iOS.
If you’re going to be flying Southwest regularly on domestic or international routes, then the Companion Pass is a no-brainer!
It’s also relatively easy to get considering the many ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points, many of which can be earned without even flying!
You can pair the Companion Pass with any of the above award tickets on domestic and international flights to maximize the value you get out of your trip. Don’t hesitate, take advantage of this amazing deal!
For more information on your upcoming travel, check out the baggage rules!
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